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Penbryn Beach, now owned by the National Trust, is one of the
finest beaches in West Wales. It is an uninhabited bay located at the
mouth of the tiny River Hownant (or Hoffnant) that runs rapidly
to the sea from its source at Brynhoffnant about two miles inland.
The narrow gorge-like valley below Llanborth Farm is known as Cwm
Lladron (the Robber's Valley) for undoubtedly Penbryn was a favourite
landing place for landing illicit cargoes principally from Ireland until
the early nineteenth century. Howell Harries, one of the leaders of the
Methodist Revival in the eighteenth century visited Llanborth in 1743
and 1747 and on both occasions preached against what he described as
the Liberty of stealing wrecks, cheating the King of things excised
and their inhuman behaviour towards poor shipwrecked sailors
that men better fall amongst Heathens than here'. To him Penbryn
was a dark country'. Illicit goods such as wine from Bordeaux,
spirits and salt from Wicklow, tobacco and tea were brought in in
considerable quantities by French and Irish vessels as well as in locally
owned vessels. The inhabitants of the Hownant Valley earned for
themselves a dubious reputation.
The area around Penbryn beach consists mainly of shales, mudstones,
slate and sandstone overlaid with coarse boulder clay with the westward
flowing streams incising deep valleys in the surface of the low plateau.
The beach itself, dominated by sheer cliffs is almost a mile long and
the coastal plateau (y morfa), until land improvement in recent years,
was largely rough pastureage. Due to lack of shelter the cliff edged
morfa is almost devoid of tree growth, with the exception of gorse
bushes and stunted hawthorn trees their branches bent inland by the
force of the prevailing westerly winds. Here on the coastal platform
to the north of Penbryn Beach prehistoric man had his settlements
and the Gaer Ddu (the Black Fort) and the Gaer Lwyd (the Grey Fort)
occupied dominant positions overlooking the Hownant Valley. In
later centuries the land that was tilled by our Iron Age ancestors was
utilised as common land by the poor people of the area for growing
Below the coastal plateau, the valley sides are too steep to be econ-
omically utilised and they provide a panoramic view of wild scrubland
with outcrops of bare rock, numerous disused stone quarries, scree
slopes, bracken, gorse, thorn and copses of deciduous trees. In those
copses, the sycamore tree that can withstand the destructive power of
salt laden winds, predominates although ash, oak, alder, beech and
other trees occur. In the valley near Llanborth, the river Hownant,
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